Govt plans safe drinking water to all villages by March 2017

With 23 of the country's 29 states having a sizeable rural population at the risk of drinking contaminated water, the Union government has set a target of providing at least 8-10 litres of safe drinking water daily for every villager in the affected habitations by March 2017.

To add momentum to the efforts, the Centre has also set ambitious targets for state governments by the end of the current financial year.

The Rajasthan government has been asked to provide safe drinking water to at least 1,708 villages by March 2015, while the targets for Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are 253, 262 and 166 rural habitations, respectively.

Noting that drinking water might be rendered unsafe due to the presence of excess fluoride, arsenic, uranium and other heavy or toxic metals, pesticides and fertiliser, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) has written to all state governments that the issue has been reviewed “at the highest level”.

“The ministry has been directed to provide at least 8-10 lpcd (litre per capita per day) of safe water for drinking and cooking in all affected rural habitations latest by March 2017,” Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation joint secretary Satyabrata Sahu has written to the states' principal secretaries in charge of implementing rural drinking water programmes. “Funds under water quality heads should be utilised by the states to achieve these targets.”

The Centre has asked the governments of West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to provide safe drinking water to at least 394, 278 and 59 villages, respectively, by the end of the current fiscal.

The safe drinking water will be provided either by commissioning community water purification plants or through pipes from nearby safe surfaces or underground sources.

The MDWS has also set up a high-level technical committee for empanelment of appropriate technologies to provide safe drinking water, with eminent scientist and former Director General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research R A Mashelkar as chairman.

An MDWS official said the committee's final recommendation would be sent to the state governments so they could adopt the technologies after they were tested in reputed institutions, like the CSIR laboratories or any Indian Institute of Technology.

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